New Mexico Lawmaker Clarifies Her Bill Will Prosecute Doctors Who Perform Abortions For Rape Victims

State Rep. Cathrynn Brown (R-NM)

New Mexico Rep. Cathrynn Brown (R) made headlines this past week when she introduced a bill to charge women who become pregnant from rape with “tampering with evidence” if they choose to have an abortion. Brown has since clarified that House Bill 206 isn’t intended to target victims of sexual assault, and has worked to revise the language of the legislation — but although she wants to ensure rape survivors won’t be prosecuted for getting an abortion, she hasn’t extended the same protections for the doctors who perform those abortions.

As the Democratic Party of New Mexico pointed out in an official statement about HB 206, the revised bill still represents a dangerous step toward criminalizing abortion. “The bill still makes it a crime to ‘facilitate’ an abortion for a woman who wants one,” Scott Forrester, the director of the group, explained. “That means doctors, nurses, or anyone else who works at a health care clinic where this is one of the services provided would still be guilty of a felony.”

Targeting abortion providers is simply an indirect method of limiting women’s reproductive access, and it has been a successful tactic for anti-choice lawmakers across the country. Abortion opponents often subject abortion clinics and providers to burdensome regulations that aren’t placed on other medical professionals — and doctors who break those rules are typically faced with harsh consequences, like losing their medical licenses.

Brown isn’t the first GOP lawmaker to go as far as to suggest that doctors who perform abortions should be subject to criminal charges. But singling out the doctors who work in this field is having serious consequences. Partly due to the obstacles placed in front of the medical professionals who perform abortions, as well as rising levels of anti-abortion harassment, the country currently has a shortage of abortion doctors — particularly in states that are especially hostile to abortion rights, like New Mexico.